Oct. 1 (UPI) -- UPS announced Tuesday that it has received federal approval to set up a fleet of drones to make deliveries.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration awarded the company's Flight Forward subsidiary a Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline, which it will use to deliver medical supplies within hospital campuses before eventually expanding to general package deliveries.
No other company has attained the certification, which will allow UPS to fly an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operators in command. It also allows drones to fly at night and exceed 55 pounds including cargo and the aircraft itself.
UPS said Flight Forward immediately launched the first drone delivery beyond the visual line of sight at WakeMed's hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C.
"This is a big step forward in safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace, expanding access to healthcare in North Carolina and building on the success of the national UAS integration pilot program to maintain American leadership in unmanned aviation," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said.
UPS and WakeMed partnered with California-based drone manufacturer Matternet to conduct a series of drone deliveries on the Raleigh medical campus beginning in March, which were overseen by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program.
Flight Forward has since operated more than 1,000 drone deliveries before announcing the new certification on Tuesday.